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University pilot this spring will normalize more than one final exam per day

Empty classroom with rows of seats attached to the floor facing a small stage and screen
McCosh 50 can hold many students for large final exams.
Candace Do / The Daily Princetonian

The University is launching a pilot which will “allow” students to take more than one final exam per day this semester, according to an email sent to undergraduates on Friday, Feb. 16 from Dean of the College Jill Dolan. 

Typically, students aren’t expected to sit for more than one final per day, but the recent amendment will cap exams per day at two. Dolan cited “concerns from students whose exams were scheduled late during exam week in the fall” and the lack of a “break in the spring” prior to summer activities as one of the reasons for the change. The move will normalize students being scheduled for two exams on the same day.

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In an email to The Daily Princetonian, Dolan wrote that the pilot this semester “will actually affect very few students,” adding that only “about three percent of the current undergraduate student body would have two assigned exams in one day (168 out of 5590) this spring.” Previously, when students were assigned two exams in one day, the registrar would proactively contact these students, but Dolan noted that they frequently said they were “fine with two exams per day and prefer to leave their schedule as-is.” 

Dolan also responded to questions about increased stress for undergraduate students as a result of the policy. In her email to the ‘Prince,’ she wrote that Princeton remains “the only Ivy League school that doesn’t require students to take more than one exam per day.” She also wrote that “Princeton has a rigorous curriculum and an assessment period that requires us to be flexible to meet often conflicting needs.” 

Sophie Williams ’27, a first-year enrolled in CLA 212 last semester, explained to the ‘Prince’ that her longer final exam schedule was not ideal for her in the fall.

“I had my Classics final on the last possible day, at the last possible time. I had turned in all my other work over a week before this, and so it was tough that I couldn’t go home until three days before Christmas,” she stated. “Obviously it was out of my control, but it would have been nice to have a shorter exam schedule.”

With the fall semester final exam period stretching to Dec. 23 in some years, some students have raised concern over difficulties returning home for breaks. The length of the finals period has been contentious and was central to this winter's USG elections. During the USG vice presidential debate in December, suggestions for revising the final exam period included establishing a shorter exam period and starting the fall semester earlier in the year to allow for an earlier winter break.

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While the length of the exam period will remain the same this spring, Dolan wrote that it would allow administrators to “study how to move to a shorter exam period in the fall.” Dolan also wrote that the University would consider student feedback following the pilot process to guide additional steps. 

This policy of working with individual students to adjust exam schedules as needed will continue this spring.

“As always,” Dolan’s announcement stated, “if an assigned exam schedule would cause undue hardship for a particular student, the Registrar’s office and our residential college deans will help shift the student’s schedule.”

The updated exam policy states that requests to reschedule in-person exams will be accommodated “under very few circumstances,” including “religious obligations,” “personal emergencies,” and “more than two examinations scheduled on the same day.”

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Dolan explained that the pilot “is one component of a longer-term initiative to decompress the final assessment period and to give students more control over planning their end-of-term work.” The University recently updated the Dean’s Date policy to allow faculty to grant short-term extensions in emergency circumstances without the approval of a dean. 

In addition to this change, Dolan explained, allowing students to potentially take two exams per day is necessary “to introduce more flexibility and efficiency within the final assessment period.”

Dolan also spoke to the way final exams at Princeton have changed in recent years. On top of a shift this year towards more exams scheduled to be administered during the afternoon rather than the evening, take-home exams have become more commonplace.

“It’s true that, especially post-pandemic, faculty are giving fewer seated examinations,” Dolan wrote. “The changes to the process on which we’re continuing to work include inviting faculty to think differently about ‘take home’ exams and their timing; about end-of-semester assessment in general, to open up more options than ‘final exams’ to assess student work; and alleviating the pile-up of work that some students experience on Dean’s Date by moving towards a staggered final assessment schedule.”

Caitlyn Tablada is a contributing News writer for the ‘Prince.’

Nandini Krishnan is a senior News writer and for the ‘Prince.’

Please send corrections to corrections[at]dailyprincetonian.com.